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Using the ABCDE Method to Examine Your Moles

The most common type of cancer in the United States — and around the world — isn’t breast cancer, lung cancer, or colon cancer. It’s skin cancer. Skin cancer is so common, in fact, that one in five US women and men develop it by the age of 70. 

One of the tragedies of skin cancer — which kills two people every hour in the US — is that it’s usually preventable. Even better, when caught early, it’s almost always curable.

Protecting your skin from the sun’s ultraviolet rays with broad-spectrum sunscreens and other sun-safe habits decreases your risk of ever developing skin cancer. Keeping an eye on your moles and other skin lesions increases your chances that abnormal cells and cancerous growths are removed and cured.

At Specialists in Dermatology, our expert dermatologists recommend that you conduct a self-examination of your skin every month and let us know if you notice anything new or troubling, including changes to your moles. We also recommend yearly skin cancer screenings at our offices in The Woodlands, Texas, and Houston, Texas. 

Most moles are benign (i.e., noncancerous). In fact, the average adult has about 40 moles by the time they’ve’ reached middle age. No matter how many moles you have, keep track of them to reduce your chance of skin cancer. 

What should you look for when you look at your moles? Following are the ABCDEs of mole evaluation.

A is for Asymmetry

Any mole — whether beautiful or not — should be symmetrical. That means each half mirrors the other, almost exactly.

If your mole is lopsided or otherwise asymmetrical, let us take a look. It may be in the process of becoming a dysplastic (i.e., precancerous) lesion.

B is for borders

Moles aren’t just symmetrical, they’re also regularly shaped. The borders should be smooth.

If the borders of your old mole have become ragged or scalloped, or if a new lesion has ragged borders, you could be at risk. 

The earlier a skin cancer is caught — whether it’s melanoma or non melanoma — the more likely it is that we can cure it. We’re certified to do so with a simple, but highly specialized procedure called Mohs surgery.

C is for color

A normal mole is a single color. Most moles are some shade of tan, brown, or gray. Sometimes they’re dark enough to appear black.

However, if your mole varies in color and shade, it could be dysplastic. Other warning signs are moles that are pink, red, white, or purple. If you have a bleeding or oozing mole, schedule an appointment to have it checked immediately.

D is for diameter

Check the diameter of your mole. Is it smaller or larger than a pencil eraser? Smaller moles are less likely to turn into cancers

If a new mole is large or an old mole is getting larger, please see us immediately. In some instances, you may have been born with a large mole. You may wish to have these removed to reduce their chances of evolving or to simply improve your appearance.

E is for evolving

Although moles may change shape and size as you age, these changes should be so subtle that they’re barely noticeable. Older moles may also start to sprout hairs.

But if you notice changes in your moles, let us know. Any change in size, shape, color, or texture could be a warning sign.

It’s more than just ABC

Although keeping tabs on your moles is an important part of skin care, most skin cancer doesn’t actually start with an evolving mole. It starts with a new lesion. That’s why you must regularly examine your skin for new growths, discolorations, and other changes.

An annual skin cancer screening allows your dermatologist to take a closer look at your skin than you could do yourself. Some skin cancers appear in areas that are hard to self-examine, such as the back of the ears or scalp. 

Other skin cancers occur in areas that are rarely, if ever exposed to sunlight, such as the soles of your feet and between your toes. Non UV-caused skin cancers are especially common in people of color. 

Of course, you don’t have to wait for a mole to turn cancerous to remove it. If your mole makes you feel self-conscious, we remove it with a variety of simple, in-office procedures.

What do your moles tell you? Find out more about your skin health when you book a skin cancer screening or mole evaluation by phone or online form at the Specialists in Dermatology office nearest you today.

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